A Travellerspoint blog

May 2007

I Say Mouzay

sunny 23 °C

We enjoyed another sumptuous breakfast prepared by Carl and Maria at the Bed & Breakfast and they very graciously gave us detailed directions from Le Petit Logis to our next destination; Loches (Lowsh) in the Loire (Lawar) Valley an estimated 4 hour drive (which we miraculously turned into 5 hours). Below is a map of our general route.

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We got to enjoy more scenic countryside, but most of our trip was on France's very well-maintained motorway, which is equivalent to our turnpike in Florida...except much nicer. The only issue we had with the motorway was...well watch the video below and see.

I originally thought I was on an episode of Punk'd when I first stepped into their "restroom". Either that or primitive camping but I had to wonder; why build all this for a hole in the ground? Why not go ahead and put in toilets? And they were all the same, whether it was for men or women. If you're a man and you only need to urinate, then you can just point and shoot. But if you're a man who needs to defecate or you're a woman, then you straddle the hole in the floor, grab hold of the bars on each side and lower yourself into a standing/squatting position...I think. I mean I never observed anyone actually use one, but looking at how the elements are arranged that appears to be the mechanics of how it works. I was too embarrassed to actually ask anyone. Although we saw quite a few toilets without seats in our travels, we never saw any more of these toilets without toilets. They seemed to be unique to the motorway. Thank goodness.

Needless to say, none of us used the restroom facilities at the motorway rest stops. But otherwise the French motorway is an excellent way to drive long distances in the country.

We finally arrived in Loches around 3pm, but still needed to find Mouzay (Moozay), a small town about 10 kms away from Loches, where our cottage was located. Despite all our best efforts we could not see any signs showing the road(s) to Mouzay but as we drove into Loches we spotted a Tourism building and, amazingly on a Sunday afternoon, it was open! And the helpful young lady inside spoke English! She graciously pulled out a map, marked our route and, after Cindy purchased a book about a local castle, we were on our way.

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The next little hitch came in Mouzay when we could not find any signs with street names. Although we did not at the time know how to program the GPS, it did show what roads we were on and we finally drove onto a road and the GPS showed it was the one we were looking for (glad it was a very small town) and we located Saint Anne, the cottage where we would be spending the next week making day trips out to castles in the countryside. Below are some photos:

Here is the outside of the back of the cottage. In the lower left corner are the double French doors (how appropriate, lol) that lead out to the backyard. The window on the far right top is in the stairway inside, the window immediately to its left is in our bedroom and the double windows on the far left are in our bathroom. Cindy's mom's bedroom and bath are on the opposite side of the cottage on the second floor as well.

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This shot is taken from the double French doors looking out into the backyard. The building on the left is a former church school that the cottage draws its name from (also now owned by the family who owns our cottage) and they told us the cottage we were in was a former dormitory for the students of that school.

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An old well, now capped, sits close to the back of our cottage.

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A beautiful spray of yellow roses in the area that separates our cottage grounds from the owner's home next door and in front of the former church school building.

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The kitchen/dining area from the stairway on the back wall, facing one of two doors that open out to the front courtyard.

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The living room area. Out of sight to the left are the double French doors that lead to the backyard. The curtained spot on the right covers a second door that opens out into the front courtyard and is right next to the kitchen door seen earlier, separated by a wall that divides the kitchen from the living room area.

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Standing by the curtained door in the living room looking back to the double French doors.

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The stairway at the back of the kitchen/dining room area, leading upstairs to the bedrooms.

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Our bedroom looking back to our bathroom area.

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Cindy's mom's bedroom looking back to her bathroom area.

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A view of the stairway going down into the kitchen/dining and living room areas.

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A shot of the kitchen/dining area from the stairway.
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From the same stairway looking toward the living room area.
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Your guess is as good as mine. Cindy was playing with my camera again.

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After getting unpacked, we drove back into Loches for dinner. This was the only place we found open on a Sunday evening (it's about 6pm and the sun won't actually set until around 9:30pm) so it was Italian for dinner in France, lol.

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Cindy and her mom got lasagna, but I ordered a cheese pizza with block olives. Turns out this is typical of this type of pizza; you get 4 or 5 black olives in the middle of the pie instead of spread throughout it. Oh and the black olives aren't sliced or pitted, they are whole with pits.
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After dinner we strolled around a little bit, but we were all tired from the drive and ready to relax so we returned to the cottage to rest and get a good night's sleep for the outing on Monday.

Next Post: The Medieval Town and Castle of Loches

Posted by WorldQuest 06:45 Archived in France Tagged lodging Comments (3)

An Afternoon in Giverny

overcast 20 °C

After finally forcing ourselves to leave Monet's Garden, we walked across the street (Rue de Claude Monet) to this little place which is a combination store and restaurant. Cindy's mom was entranced by the rose covered gateway.

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While Cindy and her mom looked around the inside of the store I drifted over to the restaurant side to discover that this was the place our B & B host had warned us catered to the tour groups and that we should avoid eating there as the food was prepared in the morning for the lunchtime crowds and thus was not as fresh as the Hotel Baudy. So, after the ladies finished browsing through the store we walked a 1/4 km down Rue de Claude Monet...

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...and saw this fine fellow...

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...on our way to the Hotel Baudy...

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...for lunch.

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I decided to try a French beer known as Hotteterre which is, judging by the label, apparently named after the French musician Jacques-Martin Hotteterre.

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This was a most excellent tasting ale and complimented my Fried Goat Cheese with Potatoes and Salad, which was delicious as well.

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We had an amusing situation while here. The waiter was bringing our drinks and I had forgotten to ask for water. When we were there the previous evening a young lady had served us and brought us a bottle of water. The bottle had some kind of label on it ("Vittel", I think). Anyway, when we placed our order I had forgotten to ask for water, so as the waiter was placing wine glasses and an unmarked clear bottle in front of Cindy I said, "Oh I forgot, we would like a bottle of water as well". He looked at me in confusion and both Cindy and her mom got these funny looks on their faces and Cindy said, "Honey, this (the unmarked bottle) IS water." Looking sheepish, I responded, "Oh" and the waiter put a mock expression of concern on his face and said, "No more beer for you, sir."

Ok, maybe you had to be there.

The Baudy Hotel is a main gathering point for artists visiting from America, Europe and Asia and it was fun for me (a die hard people-watcher) to observe the variety of folks enjoying meals in this dining room or passing through on their way to their hotel room.

After our delectable lunch, we walked back up the Rue de Claude Monet to the Musée d’Art Américain (American Art Museum), which since 1992 has existed to promote American/French cultural relationships in art, and to provide grants to American and French art students to participate in an exchange program between the two countries.

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The Musée d’Art Américain is also surrounded by gardens of bright, colorful flowers...

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...and a field that is thought to have been the subject of one of Monet's paintings, "Poppyfield Near Giverny".

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Cindy sitting under a tree next to the poppy field.

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Cindy and her mom enjoying one of the gardens around the Musée d’Art Américain.
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We left here and returned to the B & B for a short nap, then returned to Giverny at dinnertime and the Hotel Baudy for our final meal there. Then it was back to the B & B to pack, get a good night's sleep and prepare for our drive to the Loire Valley the following day.

Next Post: I Say Mouzay

Posted by WorldQuest 08:20 Archived in France Tagged tourist_sites Comments (3)

Monet's Garden - The Japanese Water Garden

More Paintings Come To Life

sunny 18 °C

Leaving the Clos Normand side of the gardens, we descended into the tunnel that runs beneath the highway and crossed over to The Japanese Water Garden side of Monet's creation.

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After Monet's death in 1926, his step-daughter did her best to maintain the premises, but time and German bombs in World War II left the home damaged and in disrepair and the gardens barren of flowers and overgrown with weeds. Monet's son bequeathed the property to the Académie des Beaux-Arts in 1966 and after years of extensive renovation that was assisted by copious notes by Monet himself and eyewitness accounts of those who worked in the gardens, it was reopened in 1980. Today, the gardens are exact replicas of what Monet himself experienced a century ago.

Here's a picture of Cindy and her mom on the first bridge.

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One of the small streams through the Water Garden.
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I really like this shot of Cindy and her mom.
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Here's another art student sketching and, if you look at the inset, you can see she is adding a wash to the sketch. When I stopped and asked, in English, if she would mind if I took a picture of her she looked up a little startled and replied, "Oh, sure" in English as well. The gentleman with her asked me where I was from and I said, "Orlando, Florida, USA" and he said "We're from Gainesville, Florida". It really is a small world, isn't it?"

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Cindy and I.

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Cindy and her mom in front of the lily pond

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The lily pond.

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Here's a small video from the Japanese Water Garden.

Another beautiful flower.
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Cindy's mom on the opposite shore of the lily pond.

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A beautiful flower on the bank of the lily pond.

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Cindy's mom in front of the lily pond.

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Another...ok you already know.

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Cindy and her mom in front of a tree.
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Contemplating all the beauty of the gardens.

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When you stroll through the gardens, or even just sit and soak in the natural beauty of the flowers, plants, trees, ponds and architecture, it is truly a wonderful experience. To know that, what you have seen painted by a master such as Claude Monet and rendered on canvas in masterpieces that are now displayed on museum walls, these gardens are exactly what he drew inspiration from, not only in visual sense but on a multitude of levels such as the sounds of the wind and birds, the fragrance of the flowers and even the impossible to quantify "feeling" that washes over you and through you.

It is so easy to see why artists are drawn here. In another life, I would love to be here sketching, drawing, painting and gathering inspiration from the surroundings of this town and garden. But it is not only artists who are attracted to this place, it is anyone who appreciates the expression of art and life from nature, which is found in abundance here in Giverny and Monet's Garden. This is an amazing place and I will be forever thankful that we spent time visiting the home and gardens of the father of Impressionism.

Next Post: An Afternoon in Giverny

Posted by WorldQuest 11:59 Archived in France Tagged tourist_sites Comments (2)

Monet's Garden - The Clos Normand

Paintings Come To life

sunny 18 °C

Claude Monet was born on November 14, 1840 in Paris, France and is generally regarded as the father of Impressionistic painting. Though he traveled across Europe for the first half of his life, Monet settled in Giverny in 1883 and spent the last half of his life with his family in the house and gardens he created in this small (population; 300) rural village. A large number of his paintings are of scenes and nature from Giverny and, in particular, his gardens.

Monet's first garden, the Clos Normand, filled the land in front of his home. In 1893, 10 years after he arrived in Giverny, Monet purchased a nearby parcel of land on the other side of a railway and a small path. By diverting a small tributary of the Epte River, Monet was able to create his Water Garden, which was based on engravings of Japanese gardens he had seen and which hang throughout the walls of his home. In later years, after Monet's death, the path was expanded into a road and so, when the gardens were restored within the last 3 decades a tunnel was built to allow safe crossing between the two gardens. Giverny hosts a half-million visitors to its village and Monet's Garden during the 7 months (April through October) each year that the gardens are open.

I shot more than 300 pictures between the 2 gardens and it has been difficult to choose which few would be included in my post. Even though we first visited the Clos Normand, then crossed the tunnel to visit the Water Garden and then returned to tour the house (because the lines to get in the house were so long due to a tour group, as you'll see in one of the pictures and in the video), I thought it best to divide the posts into 2 separate entries; one showing Clos Normand and one showing the Japanese Water Garden, in order to show as many photos as possible without it becoming tedious to read and view.

After a delicious breakfast prepared by Carl and Maria at the B & B, we arrived around 10am at the parking area for Monet's Garden.

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Cindy and her mom are all smiles as they stand in the line to enter the garden.

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Here's a blown up photo of The Master himself, Claude Monet.

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Cindy's mom standing beside a hint of what's to come.

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A beautiful flower...I have no idea what its name might be, but it's still beautiful.

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Cindy's mom standing in front a portion of Monet's House.

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A view down the main walkway of the Clos Normand.

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Tour group lined up to enter the House, so we came back later.

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A shot of a portion of the Clos Normand. Artists were in abundant attendance, sketching, painting and drawing flowers, plants or scenes throughout both gardens. I felt the old familiar yearning to pick up a sketch pad and pencil in order to capture my own vision of the beauty of these gardens, but contented myself with using my camera.

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Another beautiful flower. I can't show you all the shots of the gorgeous flowers I took, so I'm just trying to pick out a few to share.

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But before we go any farther, I should let you see the video shot in the Clos Normand. Turn up the volume.

Cindy's mom beneath an absolutely spectacular rose tree.

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A stunning rose

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Cindy and her mom.

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We finally made it into the house. Here, Cindy and her mom gaze out the second story window of Monet's study to the gardens below.

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Cindy's mom, back on the ground in Clos Normand.

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It is difficult, if not impossible, to explain or even capture with a camera the beauty of the garden and the feelings that well up inside you as you stroll among the flowers, plants and trees. Everything seems to almost become sublime and calm, yet at the same time your spirit feels refreshed and energized. This is a trip I shall not soon forget.

Next Post: Monet's Garden - The Japanese Water Garden

Posted by WorldQuest 11:41 Archived in France Tagged tourist_sites Comments (2)

Do You Know The Way to Giverny?

sunny 20 °C

Sitting in the parking lot of Versailles, we got out our road map of France and plotted our route to Giverny, where we would be spending Friday and Saturday nights at the Le Petit Logis Bed & Breakfast and visiting the world famous Monet's Garden.

After looking over the road map (and ignoring the in-dash GPS because we could not find instructions on how to properly operate the device) we decided on what looked like the best route for our 1 hour drive and got underway.

We finally arrived in Giverny almost 4 hours later.

A few things we did not take into account; choosing what looked like the most direct route also took us through undeveloped countryside and small towns where speed is negated severely, French road signs on these back roads are either relegated to being a small cement marker 2 feet off the ground or are simply non-existent (we passed one road because we missed it, turned back around and still missed it and finally saw the sign on our third return pass), traffic in even the small towns is brutally heavy and no one is any particular hurry.

In actuality, this would not have been all that bad except we were hungry and I was aggravated at missing roads and signs. The truth is the countryside and small towns were beautiful and after a while we realized that we were getting to see some wonderful scenery. Later in the week, when Cindy finally figured out how the GPS worked, we discovered we could have taken the same or a similar route to enjoy the scenery, but would not have missed roads or turns because the voice guidance system ("In 250 meters, at the roundabout, take the second exit") would have accurately directed us along the way.

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But we finally arrived in Giverny, parked at a lot near Monet's Garden and our host at the Bed & Breakfast we were staying at, Le Petit Logis, drove out to meet us and lead us back to the B & B, which is a scant 4 kilometers outside Giverny. The place is beautiful, as you'll see in the photos below and Carl & Maria are absolutely wonderful hosts!

After we unloaded our luggage, Carl directed us to the well-known Hotel Baudy for dinner in their restaurant. While it is true we were hungry, their food was excellent in and of itself because of the freshness of the ingredients, talent of their chef and the atmosphere that surrounded you in the dining area. In fact, we enjoyed the food and the ambience so much that we also indulged ourselves with lunch and dinner there the next day.

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Our appetites sated and our bodies weary, we returned to Le Petit Logis, took the photos below and retired for the night to prepare for our visit to Monet's Garden the next day.

Here is a view of the outside of the portion where we were staying. Carl and Maria live on the other side of this and Maria's parents live to the right.

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As you step through the sliding glass doors you enter the dining area and beyond that the living room area. The stairway to the left leads upstairs to the sleeping area and you can see a bit of the second floor at the top of this picture.

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Looking back from the living room area to the dining area and out the sliding glass doors

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Going upstairs. (I didn't fall down these, thank goodness)

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Looking up from the dining area to our bedroom with Cindy waving from the opening.

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Looking down on the dining area from Cindy's vantage point at the opening.

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The view of the sleeping area where Cindy's mom slept from our bedroom. She had her choice of 3 beds to choose from and the bathroom is at the far end of this room straight ahead.

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Opposite view from the bathroom with our bedroom at the far end straight ahead.
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Our bedroom from the doorway (yes, we had already messed up the bed).

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Our bedroom facing back toward to door.
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I mentioned our fantastic hosts, Carl and Maria, earlier. Here is a photo of them in front of the fireplace downstairs. They were always so gracious to us, prepared fabulous breakfasts for us (Maria makes homemade strawberry jam and oh, it was SO delicious!) and gave us so many tips and helpful pieces of advice, as well as working out directions for us to the Loire Valley the morning we left. I can highly and without equivocation recommend Le Petit Logis Bed & Breakfast to any and all travelers who find themselves in or near Giverny. Contact them at lepetitlogis@yahoo.co.uk I guarantee you will fall in love with them and their B & B.
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After a night of blissful sleep, we were ready to visit Monet's Garden on Saturday morning.

Next Post: Monet's Garden - Can We Just Live Here?

Posted by WorldQuest 09:43 Archived in France Tagged lodging Comments (3)

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